The 2021-22 NBA season is still only in it’s infant stages. During this part of the year, every team plays with energy and heart, leading to fantastic games and jaw-dropping individual performances. For nearly every team in the league, these first few games have provided at least an inkling of promise or hope for the rest of their year. In a way, it's the honeymoon stage of the NBA season.
A marque characteristic of fandom in this stage is overreaction. A solid individual performance or two from rotation players on bad teams can make us all question who the next breakout all-star will be. A few back-to-back losses from former playoff teams can make us wonder if the landscape of a conference is changing (looking at you, Lakers). The Utah Jazz, after a good start to their season, aren’t immune to this phenomenon. So, in the spirit of the times, here’s an overreaction, just four games into the season:
The Jazz have a deep roster. In fact, so deep that players who deserve playing time won't get it.
This is an amazing problem for Utah to have. Every team in the NBA wishes it was in a position where their roster slots 9-12 were filled by rotation level players. It’s a comforting position for the Jazz to be in. This, however, does come with its own (very slight) drawbacks. With Rudy Gay, whose yet to play a minute for the Jazz this season, coming back from a heel injury sometime in the near future, two players, Eric Paschall and Jared Butler, are likely to experience a cut in their minutes.
This, since Paschall has been playing so well and since Butler is in need of minutes to develop, is a little unfortunate. Paschall has actually played so well in his short time in Utah that I have a feeling he might still creep into the rotation regularly. He has played with an immense amount of energy, has consistently made intelligent plays on offense, and most importantly, has played fantastic defense at the 4/5 slot. I mean, just look at this phenomenal perimeter defense against the Denver Nuggets:
Will Barton had ripped off 9 straight points for the Nuggets and no one on the Jazz could stop him. Jazz sub in Eric Paschall, who immediately does this. pic.twitter.com/aIaAqVzk1s— taylor griffin (@griffdunk) October 27, 2021
This type of play has been something the Jazz have severely needed the past few seasons. Paschall provides grit and toughness every time he steps on the court and it clearly energizes the team.
Butler, on the other hand, hasn’t had as rocking of a start to his season. As a matter of fact, in his handful of minutes played this year, Butler has essentially been Utah’s worst player in every advanced statistic. This is totally okay though! Butler needs to experience those growing pains and play against real NBA-level talent this season to develop more as a player. Unfortunately, unless any of Utah’s starting guards are sitting out, he probably won't see very many minutes.
In the end, what is great about all of this is that as the season progresses, Utah has the ability to rest its starters with more confidence. Given that Utah has gone into the last two playoff runs at far below full health, having such a deep roster will open the opportunity to playing regular rotation players less on a nightly basis and could reduce the likelihood of premature burnout, something that impacted the Jazz heavily last season. In essence, this problem might just be the key to Utah having a real run at the title this year.